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Acella Construction President Dave Dirubbo featured in Boston Business Journal


Business: Construction management

Based: Norwell

Principal: David Dirubbo, president

David Dirubbo, president of Norwell-based Acella Construction Corp., has always been what you would consider a fighter.

Nearly 25 years ago, when he was a student at Bentley University with plans to run his own construction business, Dirubbo found himself fighting for his life when he was diagnosed with stage IV lymphoma. After an aggressive treatment, Dirubbo emerged cancer-free.

Some years later, he ended up on a very different battleground: After serving as a project manager for a couple of area firms, Dirubbo launched his own construction-management firm, Acella, with his brother, vice president of operations Anthony Dirubbo, in 2003. But, the firm’s steady growth eventually hit a roadblock in the form of the Great Recession.

Acella had grown to $20 million in annual revenue and a staff of 25 by 2007. But, a year later, its revenues had dropped to nearly half of that amount.

“Margins were down in the industry and competition was brutal,” said Dirubbo, 45.

Back in 2007, the company had a minimum project size of about $250,000. But Dirubbo was quickly forced to take on much smaller jobs. “I was begging to be put on the list for $30,000 and $40,000 jobs, just to keep my guys employed and keep money coming in the door,” Dirubbo said.

Acella subsequently reduced its staff to 14 people. Project managers also adopted the role of estimators, and an accounting position went part-time. “We actually became better, because we became more efficient,” Dirubbo said.

The company also became more nimble in the types of projects it can handle and has expanded its market focus. A growing market for Acella is health care, which currently represents about 40 percent of its total sales volume, Dirubbo said. The company had previously done work related to this market, such as numerous laboratory projects at Northeastern University. Recent health care projects of Acella’s include a Doctors Express urgent care facility in Waltham and a renovation project for the Boston University medical school’s oral surgery department.

Acella is currently finishing a challenging renovation project at a hospice residence in Hingham for the Norwell Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice.

“It had to meet certain requirements around health care, but it also had to be very home-like,” saidMeg Doherty, the Norwell VNA’s CEO. “I found (Acella) to be very flexible, and they’ve brought a great deal of quality to the project.”

The firm is also looking to do more “green” projects, such as the LEED-rated 15,000-square-foot addition and renovation at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum it managed in 2006.

Acella now has a staff of 23, roughly the same as pre-recession levels. The firm brought in $13.3 million in revenue in 2012. And this year, Dirubbo said, it’s on track to reach between $18 million and $21 million. The firm has managed 16 jobs so far this year, nearly all in Massachusetts. Dirubbo hopes Acella will have done a total of between 50 and 60 jobs by year’s end.

Dirubbo said his long-ago cancer battle has had a lasting impact on how he conducts both his life — and his business.

“It brought me down to earth, really made me realize what’s important in life,” Dirubbo said. “I definitely built the culture of the company around that.”

About Acella Construction Corporation

Founded in 2003, Acella Construction is a construction management firm specializing in full service turn-key construction, design-build and pre-construction services for the commercial, institutional and educational sectors.  Acella Construction maintains offices at 62 Accord Park Drive, Norwell, MA 02061. The firm’s mission is ‘building relationships, one project at a time.’ For additional information, please visit or call (781) 681-9240.

Working with Acella was great. They were always available to answer my questions and they kept me in the loop every step of the way. They were very flexible and patient and worked around our working schedule – sometimes coming in very early in the morning. Their work turned out wonderfully and they even painted a large wall that was not part of the scope to get the whole space looking shiny and new. This was my first renovation project and they made me look good! I would highly recommend Acella.

Suzanna Bray